There have been 595 days since Matt Hall stood on the top step of the podium in the Red Bull Air Race World Championship series, but a victory at the inaugural French event in Cannes on the French Riveria has broken that drought in an emotional victory for the Australian.
A two-time runner up in the world championship in 2015 and 2016, Hall spent much of last year re-building with a brand-new aircraft and new team members. A pair of podiums in the latter half of 2017 pointed to Hall’s potential, but it wasn’t until today that the Newcastle local was able to deliver a performance akin to his championship challenging years.
Joining Hall on the podium was 2016 world champion Matthias Dolderer of Germany in second, with current series leader Michael Goulian of the USA claiming third. Due to Sunday’s result, Hall now sits second on the ladder, just three points behind Goulian.
With so much time between victories, team changes and the unexpected passing of former race technician Ron Simard in December last year, Hall called Sunday’s triumph just as satisfying as his first ever victory.
“Today was an awesome day, the venue is amazing, and this is just as exciting as my first win ever,” beamed the former Australian fighter pilot.
“We have known since we did our first training run on Friday that we had a good setup on this plane and it is back to where we wanted it after a re-branding error caused it to be a little off balance at the first race of the season in Abu Dhabi in February.
“At the end of last season everything was right, we had a really good team set up and then I got a text message couple of days before Christmas telling me that Ron had died, it was only a matter of hours after his plane crash. I didn’t believe it, I sent him a text and said ‘hey mate, can you check in with me? I’m hearing a nasty rumour.’ But it turned out to be true.
“It’s been a very, very challenging time emotionally, but I know Ron have been watching with a big smile on his dial and he’ll be impressed with how Finchy (technician David Finch) has stepped into the team. Finchy is a great guy, he is very talented. He has got the plane to race winning qualities.
“I think it is going to be a great year.”
The day started in fine form for Hall, who knocked out hometown French hero François Le Vot in the opening Round of 14. In the second stage of the race the Aussie took on Canadian Pete McLeod and won again, sending him into a four-way shootout for victory against Dolderer, reigning world champion Yoshihide Muroya of Japan and originally, Czech pilot Martin Šonka.
However high drama struck Šonka, as his team incurred a technical infringement for the second race in a row. This time they were deemed to have breached the maximum RPM limit. That inserted Goulian into the Final 4, and subsequently onto the podium.
Now with his fifth career victory under his belt, Hall will look to build on his success the third race of the 2018 world championship series, which will be held from May 26-27 in Chiba, Japan.
Story supplied by Matt Hall Racing